The draft National Education Policy (NEP) has revived the old wounds over the contentious three-language formula. The draft policy report, unveiled soon after the NDA took over the reins for a second term, has sparked off widespread outrage and anti-Hindi sentiments in the South, particularly in Tamil Nadu. Making Hindi teaching in schools mandatory in non-Hindi speaking States is bound to be met with resistance. Though the government has assured that Hindi will not be imposed on any State, there are genuine apprehensions about the intent behind the exercise, which is seen as part of a larger plan to subsume other linguistic cultures in the name of national integration. In this regard, the BJP is always viewed with suspicion by regional parties in the South which harp on linguistic identity to protect their turf. The Centre must realise that any attempt to subsume the diverse linguistic cultures by couching it under the guise of national unity will not work. It must put an end to the campaign to promote Hindi as the sole national language. It simply will not find traction in a diverse country like ours. Imposing Hindi on non-Hindi speaking States in the name of three-language formula is not the best way to promote national unity. It will be counter-productive and lead to avoidable tensions. The draft of the policy was submitted to new HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal by the committee headed by eminent scientist K Kasturirangan.
The draft policy has recommended a three-language formula throughout the country to promote multilingual communication abilities for students. What triggered uproar was that the draft policy required students from non-Hindi States to study Hindi and English apart from the regional language. Many parties from the South, especially in Tamil Nadu, alleged that it was an attempt by the Modi government to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking students. Critics see the BJP’s public embrace of Hindi as a political ploy to impose what the saffron Parivar considers a symbol of India’s core culture on the rest of the country. The primary purpose of a language is to help people communicate — among themselves and with the government. Since Hindi is limited to a geographic region, the makers of our Constitution adopted the pragmatic approach of retaining it just as one of the many official languages in the country. When it comes to communicating with each other, the argument that Hindi is the lingua franca of India is flawed. Except for Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar, almost every State has a language of its own. Even in these four States, there is no standard spoken Hindi. Language should be seen as an aspirational tool to help people compete globally.